Fall Out Boy was one of the few bands to come out of the mid-2000s pop/punk era that I never really got to be a part of until much later. Some of my all-time favourite records, such as American Idiot, The Black Parade, and Brand New Eyes came out of that time, but I never caught onto Fall Out Boy’s material. I admit that was probably due to a lack of interest on my part more so than the quality of music they were producing. Looking back at those first few records now I can clearly see they had talent and could write an excellent hook. The group’s later records, however, flirted with a pop/rock sound that just wasn’t up my alley. And with their latest project, Mania, that neutral disinterest has turned into one long facepalm.
I was curious to hear where this record would go after witnessing the release of “Young and Menace” last year; so what do we have with Mania? There’s no way around it. Mania is awful. It’s an ugly mess of an album that lacks any sort of cohesion or nuance. The record takes every chance it can get to force you to believe that it’s the most groundbreaking thing you’ll ever hear. Each and every song has to sound massive and have a pounding EDM boom that rattles inside your skull long after the song has ended. If it isn’t as loud as possible or if they aren’t throwing everything in their arsenal your way there’s no chance you will pay attention and enjoy it, right?
“Young and Menace” is one of the worst songs I’ve heard in years and the record provides several cuts that come close to rivalling it. “Champion” and “Stay Frosty Royal Milky Tea” are unpleasant through and through and are seemingly made of chopped up sounds and ideas that don’t mesh together at all. The latter track strangely sounds like a bigger version of Zayn’s horrendous “Pillowtalk.” Even the lyrics are awkward to sing along to (“Are you smelling that sh*t?” is repeated eight times). Nothing is even close to being good here. Nothing. “The Last of the Real Ones” was said to be a genuinely good song by some critics but I cannot see it at all. The chorus is generic at best and like every cut here it tries to sound like the most epic thing you’ll ever hear. When it seems like it’s going to slow things down (“Heaven’s Gate” or the closer “Bishop’s Knife Trick,” for example) it has to go straight back to those grating EDM beats and high pitched vocals.
The best thing I can say about Mania is that it does live it up its name. It’s confusing, ugly, disorientating, and entirely unpleasant. Chaos, whether intentional or not, is still chaos.